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College hoops: COC's tank runs empty

Cougars men drop Holiday Classic final to AVC

Posted: December 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 30, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The College of the Canyons men's basketball team entered the championship game of the Cougar Holiday Classic against Antelope Valley on Thursday night at College of the Canyons in search of their first championship at their own tournament since 1997.

The Marauders, though, had other ideas.

Antelope Valley used nine first-half 3-pointers and a 48.3 percent shooting performance to outplay COC in nearly every aspect of the game en route to a 76-61 victory.

College of the Canyons (9-6) fell behind early for the second straight night, watching as AVC shot a stellar 47.4 percent in the first half from beyond the 3-point line on 19 attempts to pull ahead 41-29 at the halftime break.

On Wednesday, COC found itself in a similar position, trailing Palomar by six at halftime before storming back in the second half to win in overtime and advance to the championship game.

But on Thursday, AVC (12-2) took advantage of its depth to pull away from the Cougars before any hopes for a comeback could come to fruition.

Rafael Love and Wesley Bartole did their best to keep COC in the game, as Love scored a game-high 21 points and added nine rebounds and Bartole added 20 points and four rebounds.

Steven Shares added 11 points and Roman Delgado scored seven for the Cougars, who had zero bench points in the game.

COC pulled within seven points at 41-34 with 18:53 to play before a drought that saw the Cougars score just two points in just under seven minutes.

That drought pushed COC's deficit to 59-40 with 12:03 to play.

Playing with only eight players due to injuries - including the loss of Brad Wyche, who according to Fisher, suffered a concussion in the Cougars' game against Palomar - Canyons appeared to be a step slower after playing three games in three days.

"I think we got tired," Fisher said. "Three games in three days when we're missing some guys and (AVC) has a full complement of guys. It was a game-time decision not to play Wyche - he's a two-year starter and he's a calming influence. He's also one of our better ball handlers. We've been playing short-handed for a while now."

The Marauders, on the other hand, took advantage of their depth, getting points from 10 players.

"That was the main difference in getting that second run - our depth is hard to deal with," said Antelope Valley head coach John Taylor.

Center Dwan Caldwell led the team in scoring with 14 points, Jason Johnson scored 13 points and Chris Bridges scored 11 points.

Antelope Valley moved the ball around with ease, consistently finding open shots around the perimeter and inside the post.

The Marauders posted 24 assists in the contest to COC's 12 and forced the Cougars into 17 turnovers.

"We had a chance to knock them out early," Taylor said. "But (COC) played hard."

After their 19 3-point attempts in the first half, the Marauders adjusted to the Cougars' second-half scheme by moving the ball inside.

They went just 1-for-5 from behind the arc in the second half.

The Cougars went 3-of-10 from 3-point range and shot 42 percent overall from the field.

"We played hard," Fisher said. "We just didn't make enough plays. November and December (are over) and we start fresh 0-0. These 15 games have given us some quality experience and we understand each other and what's expected. We have 10 freshman players. Now we get after it and try to bring back a conference title."

The Cougars will open up Western State Conference play on Jan. 4 against L.A. Valley College at COC.




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